Microsoft announced today that it is developing and submitting for approval its own "Open XML" document standard that will give "a new lease on life" to Microsoft Office documents that have been created in the past. Microsoft is responding to pressure--much of it from governments--to develop an open document standard that will (because of its openness) ensure that documents created and saved in that standard will be accessible in perpetuity.
While this is an important step forward for Microsoft, they're already behind. In fact, the NYT's headline for the story says it all: "Microsoft Plans to Ease Format Rules." Who gives a shit? Such "format rules" are an unnecessary holdover from the era of proprietary software and formats. IBM and Sun have already helped to create the "Open Document" standard (also in XML). This is the default standard for documents created in OpenOffice.org software, which is open-source, more powerful than you need it to be, free (both as in "free beer" and "free speech"), and not Microsoft. If it took them this long to realize that an open document XML standard was going to be important to people, why should you trust them with your data at all? I say switch now.
Did I mention it was free?
(This message was posted from a Fedora box.)